Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Princess Bride (1987)

Even before seeing the film, most people are able to quote its most famous line: ‘Hello! My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die!’ That line, out of context, is either going to conjure up images of action and adventure or of tongue-in-cheek comedy. Luckily, The Princess Bride provides a dizzying mix of both.

A grandfather tells the tale of The Princess Bride to his bed-ridden grandson, who is initially indignant at the prospect of being read a fairytale. The heroine of the tale is Buttercup, who loses her beloved, Westley.

The Princess Bride is a seamless mix of fairytale and comedy, thanks to a cast that performs brilliantly. Cary Elwes is wonderful as the dashing lead, but it is without a doubt Mandy Patinkin’s Inigo Montoya that steals the show. Not only does the character bring comedy to the film; he also brings much needed emotion to it, which is slightly lacking in the central love story. There are several cameos in the film, but Peter Cook’s Impressive Bishop is the most memorable.

The film features plenty of fun action sequences. The duel between Inigo and Westley is particularly exciting, and certainly impressive considering both actors did all the fencing. Part of the film’s charm, by now, lies with its slightly dodgy special effects. I couldn’t help but feel that the filmmakers were probably aware of this, making the Rodents of Unusual Size scene especially funny.

This film is a works brilliantly as a comedy and as a fantasy. Best of all, its humour is highly accessibly, making it a perfect family film for children and adults alike!


Thursday, April 20, 2006

Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006)

In the early flurry of CGI feature films, Ice Age was generally perceived as the inferior to the likes of Shrek and Monsters Inc. However, the film had a charm that guaranteed its success. The creators have succeeded in recreating that charm for the second installment.

Having happily settled together as a most unusual herd, Manny, Sid and Diego face new trouble when they discover that the ice is begin to melt and that they must move from their valley in order to survive. Manny is also concerned that he is the last remaining mammoth – that is until he meets Ellie, a mammoth convinced that she is in fact a possum.

The film boasts an impressive cast of voices – Ray Romano, John Leguizamo and Denis Leary return from the original, this time joined by Queen Latifah as Ellie. The unlikely star of the Ice Age franchise does not have a voice (or at least not a coherent one). He is of course Scrat the determined squirrel, who is constantly trying to collect acorns. His role has been increased considerably for this sequel; the filmmakers have evidently picked up on his popularity. This, however, does suffer from most of his segments having already been used as teaser trailers, so many of his moments don’t come as surprises.

The plot is thin, but little else is to be expected from a film aimed at children. However, it is always engaging and entertaining, though this film perhaps has fewer belly laughs than the first. What’s most impressive about the film is the CGI work. At times I found myself almost mesmerised by Scrat’s tail, so detailed and realistic is the rendering.

Ice Age 2 is a heart-warming and funny film worthy of its predecessor. However, let’s hope that they don’t make a third installment, or the filmmakers run the risk of spreading a good thing too thinly.


Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Pink Panther (2006)

Any film that remakes a classic is bound to face harsh judgement both critically and from the cinema-going public. I went to see this film expecting the worst but hoping for better. Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised.

This film is no comedy masterpiece, but it succeeds in providing plenty of laughs throughout. Although the film does suffer from many of its jokes being in the over-played trailer, it still has enough jokes and funny set-pieces to overlook this.

Steve Martin does a fantastic job as Inspector Clouseau, the root of most of the film's humour. The 'hamburger' sequence is one of the funniest things I've seen in a long time; Martin's accent is consistently hilarious throughout. The supporting cast is on fine form considering their thin material - Emily Mortimer is particularly sweet as Nicole. There is one weak point in the acting chain and that is Beyonce Knowles. I had not expected much of her, but she failed to convince, despite the fact that she is, more or less, playing herself.

The film is well paced and effectively fills out its running time. The final scene feels a little unnecessary, but is just about amusing enough to merit its inclusion. Although for the most part the characters are quite 2D, Clouseau naturally being little more than a caricature, the film's obligatory sad moment and romantic moment are both still relatively effective.

Without the humour the film is very weak indeed, but thankfully not a single joke falls flat. All in all, this film is highly enjoyable light entertainment.